Growing Devotions (Pt 3) – Connecting with the Land

This is the third post in this series. They build on each other, so if you haven’t read them yet here are Part One and Part Two. Don’t worry – I’ll wait for you to catch up.

*waits patiently*

All good? Excellent then! Moving on.

Once we get to know our Selves a bit better, and firm up our internal foundations a bit more, we can start connecting with other entities.

What kinds of entities can we connect with?

Categorizing all the other entities out there – even loosely – is a challenge, and I’ve yet to see a perfect method. I tend to go for more functional definitions, so here are the three basic categories I use when discussing devotional work:

Land Spirits: These are entities in symbiotic relationships with a given place. They nurture and are sustained by locations ranging from a single flower to an entire continent, depending on the entity in question.

Ancestors: These are entities in symbiotic relationships with a bloodline or tribe. They’re also usually dead, but I throw tribal spirits and some totems in here too. These are spirits who nurture and are sustained by a given family lineage, certain families of choice (often grouped by profession or experience, like “cop” or “rejected by family for X reason”), and/or specific clans/tribes within larger cultural groups. Adoption into a line is definitely possible, both before and after death, so the lines aren’t quite as clear-cut as they might seem.

Deities: These are entities in symbiotic relationships with larger cultural groups. They nurture and are sustained by a whole people. Those of us not born into a specific cultural group can almost always “seek citizenship” (although how that happens varies by deity and culture), allowing us to join with a people in a way similar to how individuals get adopted into family lineages.

This classification system is incredibly general, and leaves a lot out, but it’s enough to get us started.

One thing I want to emphasize with these definitions is the symbiotic relationship between each type of Power and Their realm of influence. It’s a critically important idea because that symbiosis is both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of a given Power.

If a Land Spirit’s land is tainted or drained or razed for shopping malls the Spirit can fade, which means the land is no longer tended and so energetically fades faster. If a family line forgets to honor their dead the Ancestors can be lost, and the family loses the guidance of and traditional knowledge held by their loved ones. If a people cease to honor their Gods, then those Gods begin losing influence in the world.

With these relationships being symbiotic, we as people also lose out when those relationships weaken.

On the other hand, every act of devotion we do helps anchor and fuel the Powers. This strengthens the land, our families, and humanity as a whole. The devotional work we do literally enriches the world.

That’s a very very big deal.

Over time, as we connect with the entities listed above, we may find ourselves interacting with Powers that don’t easily fit these categories. And that’s ok. This series of posts is a beginning step, not a final word, so feel free to alter things as circumstances change.

Also, notice those definitions don’t mention things like “power” or “strength”. I frankly think that’s a silly reference point. It’s totally subjective, for one, and not really useful besides. (For more detail on why I feel that way check out this post.)

Where should I start?

The foundation of all devotional work is Hospitality. That still holds true. And we really need to pay attention to that, because no matter where we may be it’s time to reciprocate.

Look around. There were Land Spirits living here before our current locations were built, and hopefully there will still be Land Spirits there when we leave. No matter how long we may have been somewhere, we’re the newcomers to Their established places. The resident Spirits are sadly used to being ignored, so They tend to go with a live-and-let-live approach to newcomers, but They know we’re here whether we’ve reached out to Them or not.

If we want to form relationships with Them it’s up to us to get the ball rolling. Time to bake some cakes and visit the neighbors.

Visiting the Land Spirits

For the most part we spend the majority of our time at home and work, so those are the two places I recommend we start connecting with the Land Spirits. We’re already in Their spaces for substantial amounts of time anyway, so it just makes sense.

Improving our relationships with Them can help with everything from keeping the emotional environment calm to always being able to find our keys, and They can help protect us and our spaces too. Eventually, Those most familiar with us can vouch for us when you travel or move (what, you didn’t think They spoke with each other?), which helps things start out on a much friendlier note at the new place.

land spirit

A Domovoi, or household spirit, found in the folklore of Eastern Europe.

The techniques used to meet with Them are fairly similar regardless of location. If you read the post on Hospitality linked above you might find the entries here familiar.

1)      Be Ready to Entertain

If you’re inviting a land spirit to visit you at home, clean your house. The whole house, with a special emphasis on the kitchen and, if you have one, the hearth. Seriously. This has to be your first step. I hope you have a clean house anyway, but house spirits generally cannot abide mess. If They’re bound specifically to your house, and you’re a slob, They will do things like hide your keys and pop light bulbs to try to make you either clean or GTFO. Consequences only get worse from there. If the Land Spirit has enough range to avoid your place, They won’t step foot inside if it’s messy unless it’s to try to screw with you. Make it the kind of place you’d feel comfortable visiting yourself.

If you’re trying to meet Them at work, seek out a good location. If you’ve got a private office you’re golden – simply follow the house rules. Most of us don’t have that option, though, and our work environments range from retail stores to cube farms. If this is your situation hunt around outside for a quiet place, one that would be suitable for a picnic. I always find a fountain or other water source to be a huge plus. If there’s nowhere like that around consider a local park instead.

2)    Offer Food and Drink

I wasn’t joking about baking cakes! Offerings for land spirits can vary, but I recommend home-made if possible, minimally processed, and traditional. Response has been neutral-to-negative when I’ve offered meat of any kind so I avoid it, but dairy seems to be just fine. And it’s hard to go wrong with honey and beer!

Best offerings in my experience? Fresh-baked biscuits with locally-sourced butter, honey, and jam. Fruit cakes. Local wines and ciders. Milk. Every Beltane I hit up Whole Foods and buy a ton of cheeses and breads from around the world, along with juices and wines, as part of a full honoring ritual for Them – that tends to go over beautifully. Hot teas are appreciated, especially herbal ones, but iced teas not so much. I’ve found that a full formal English-style tea is fabulous, too.

Once you’ve decided on what to offer, offer it. I tend to make offerings to Them in my kitchen or dining area at home. If you have a yard, patio, or balcony, consider setting a spot there aside for the Land Spirits. If at work go to wherever you previously picked.

Set out a plate for yourself and a plate full of yummies for Them. Take a moment to find your Center, and from that center send out a spiral of energy into the earth as an invitation. Think of it like a handshake – I like to leave it kind of “hanging” until it’s “grasped”. Once you know They’re present, simply invite Them to share treats and spend some time with you. No need for poetry or whatever – speaking from the heart with sincerity is better.

Outdoor shrine

This is an offering spot set up at the roots of a tree.

3)      Show Respect

Share your offering with them in a meditative silence, listening for Them. Feel free to share some information about yourself that the Spirit may not have, like what you most love about where you currently are. If you love the land you’re on you already have something in common with the entities who live there. Land Spirits are very interested in the “now”, so focus on what’s current when sharing perspectives and news. Just make sure you leave Them time to communicate with you too.

If this is the first time you’ve sought Them out, don’t presume on the association. You’re there to gain friends and allies, not subordinates. Don’t disrespect Them by assuming They’ve been waiting with bated breath for you to give Them permission to adore you and give you things. (Heads up – They haven’t.)

When the visit is over, sincerely thank Them for sharing with you, and leave it open for a repeat later. If They prompt you with “I’m done” go ahead and dispose of the food and drink outside. If not, leave out in a sheltered location overnight, then dispose of the food and drink outside the next morning.

Continuing the Association

Once the ice is broken you’ll want to continue building a rapport. You can of course continue with the offerings above. However, since They are in symbiotic relationships with the land your available offerings are many. Here are a few ideas (in no particular order):

1)      Leave a space in your yard untouched, as a wild space. Another option here is to set up a permanent shrine to the land spirits.

2)      Grow something. Anything. If you’ve got the space you can garden. Growing kitchen herbs you’ll eat is particularly awesome, but an orchid or fern will do. Just get something green. If you don’t get enough light in your place to grow anything, consider aquarium gardens or hydroponic setups. There are even setups specifically designed to grow herbs on counter tops.

3)      Try music. Land spirits in particular seem to love it – think of all the fauns from Greece with pipes! Drumming is good, and I’ve had great results with a penny whistle. I don’t exactly rock at it, but the effort for Their enjoyment is noted and appreciated. A penny whistle is also less than $10, so we’re not breaking the bank either.

faun

This is a faun – with pipes! – at Hillwood in Washington DC. Originally the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood is now a museum surrounded by extensive gardens. The faun above is on the terrace wall.

4)      Art is another great offering. Perhaps the happiest place land-spirit-wise I’ve ever been was a sculpture garden in New Jersey. Outdoor sculpture works well, but be creative! Variations include land/neighborhood focused graffiti/murals (should you live in an area for it), landscaping, nicely-designed pavers, etc. Even beyond that craft-work in general pleases Them, especially metal working.

5)      Put out feeders for birds and squirrels in the winter. In rural areas consider salt licks for deer. In more urban areas you can put out shelters for stray cats.

6)      If you don’t already recycle, start. Consider composting too. Vermiculture is doable in apartments, so if you’ve an interest there’s a way.

7)      Walk instead of drive when you can. Try carpooling or the local park and ride as eco-friendly alternatives.

8)      Throw a picnic! This is a great way to meet new Land Spirits outside of your home and work zones. Pack a basket of yummies, haul it out to the park, and spend a day communing with the land. This is a great time to break out the drum or penny whistle, too, and works well as an honoring day with other people.

9)      Volunteer at animal rescue organizations, for conservation efforts, at community gardens, for road/neighborhood cleanups, etc. Just keep it local.

10)   Consider where your food comes from. Do what you can to eat locally produced foods, with an emphasis on organics. Move as far away from processed foods as you can, too.

If you get indications that something else is desired as an offering go with it. There were Land Spirits here before people came, and with each wave of immigrants we got a few hardy spirits that traveled with them to establish new ranges. In settled areas there’s no way to tell at the beginning what culture your local Land Spirit might come from, if They are associated with any human culture at all, so you might have to experiment a bit to see what works. The less settled the area, the more likely that the local Spirit is native. And don’t forget that They have personal preferences, too.

Add working with the Land Spirits to the routine established with finding your Center. If you start feeling overwhelmed, go back to your Center and make sure that’s stable, then venture out to the Land Spirits again. When you’re totally stable with this addition to your practice, move on to working with the Ancestors – the next post in this series.